Rescue operations during Kerala floods in 2018

Kerala, also known as “God’s own country” is one of the most beautiful provinces of India. The state is gifted with abundant water and greenery. Its a labyrinth of backwaters and rivers interspersed with palm fronds. An area full of long, unpronounceable tongue twisters for names of towns and villages. Inhabited by a friendly and most enterprising people. A real paradise on earth. Unfortunately, the state was devastated by torrential rains and unprecedented floods. Several hundred people were killed and nearly 12,000 families were rendered homeless. The governments of the state and India responded with vigour to provide succour to the affected people. A very large number of people had to be airlifted and some of the angels which responded for Search and Rescue were the Westland Sea King Mk 42C of the Indian Navy.

seaking_1.jpgThe Sea King is a staple workhorse of the Indian Navy and 42C is the troop carrier version which can carry 28 fully armed troops into combat. It can also rescue people marooned in a flood. The aircraft was manufactured by Westland Helicopters of UK from 1969 to 1995. It is a licensed version of the American Sikorsky S-61 helicopter. However, it has been extensively modified by Westland and is a substantially different aircraft from the Sikorsky. For starters, it is powered by a different and more powerful engine supplied by Rolls Royce. The reason for the major modifications was the difference in the philosophy for deployment of these aircraft between the US Navy and the Royal Navy. While US Navy intended to use them as ship borne support aircraft, the Royal Navy had more independent operations in mind. The Sea King was exported widely and was / is operated  by the following armed forces: –

  • Royal Navy, UK.
  • Royal Air Force, UK.
  • Indian Navy.
  • Egyptian Air Force.
  • Egyptian Navy.
  • German Navy.
  • Norwegian Air Force.
  • Pakistan Navy
  • Qatar Air Force
  • Royal Australian Navy.
  • Belgian Air Force.

Westland developed several versions of the aircraft which included: –

  • ASW aircraft.
  • Search and Rescue aircraft.
  • Troop carriers.
  • Multipurpose armed aircraft.
  • Airborne Early Warning aircraft.
  • Electronic warfare aircraft.

Seaking_2The Sea King is powered by two Rolls Royce Gnome H 1400-2 turbo-shaft engines. Each producing 1,660 Shaft Horse Power (SHP). These engines powered a five blade rotor with a rotor disc diameter of 18.90 m. This rotor disc had an area of 280 sq-m. This power plant can fly the 17.02 m long and 5.13 m high aircraft at a speed of 208 km/h (129 mph). The aircraft weighs 6,387 kg (14,051 lbs) empty and has a maximum takeoff weight of 9,707 kg (21,000 lbs). It has a range of 1,230 km (764 miles) and a climb rate of 10.3 m/s (2,020 ft/ min). The aircraft has a boat shaped under carriage and floats to allow it to land in water in case of an emergency.

Rescue operations in Maharashtra 2017

The Indian Navy still operates these aircraft. Two models are in service, the Mk 42B which is the multi-role version. This aircraft is primarily an Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) helicopter armed with dunking sonars and anti-submarine air launched torpedoes. However, it is also capable of being armed with anti-ship missiles and can be used an Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW) platform also. This aircraft is not to be confused with a few Sikorsky SH-3 aircraft in use with the Navy. The second model is the Mk 42C which is a troop carrier version and was used in the search and rescue missions in Kerala and other places. Its main role is insertion and  extraction of Marine Commandos of the Indian Navy called the MARCOS. These troops were the first specialist responders during the 26/11 terrorist  attack on the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai.